Documents Showing Ukraine Discussions After Military Aid Freeze 'Almost Completely Redacted' by Trump Administration, Watchdog Says

Investigative journalism non-profit The Center for Public Integrity engaged in a long court battle with President Donald Trump's administration which stonewalled its effort to access 146 pages of documents showing official reaction to the president's order to freeze military aid to Ukraine in July.

The documents show how officials at the Department of Defense and the White House Office of Management and Budget responded to the aid freeze, which is at the heart of the impeachment effort against the president.

Public Integrity—an organization investigating "betrayals of public trust"—reported on Thursday that when it finally received the documents they "had been almost completely redacted by the government."

Public Integrity had been seeking the documents since late September, when it filed a Freedom of Information request. A federal court then ordered the administration to release them on 25 November.

Public Integrity received the documents on Thursday, just before the House Judiciary Committee voted on the two articles of impeachment brought against the president. "Every substantive exchange between officials at the agencies was blacked out," the Center said.

"We are deeply disappointed that the public won't have access to this important information at the heart of the impeachment process," said Public Integrity's chief executive officer, Susan Smith Richardson. "But we will continue to fight to ensure that the documents see the light of day."

Newsweek has contacted the White House by email to request comment on the release.

There are nine exemptions that allow government agencies to withhold information or documents in the face of FOIA requests.

These include when materials involve classified defense or foreign relations information or anything that touches on internal agency rules and practices.

Sensitive information that falls into any of these fields can be redacted. In this case, applicants can appeal the extent of redaction and request more information, as Public Integrity now plans to do.

The Trump administration argued that the redacted information related to its "deliberative process," and that revealing it would violate the privacy of individual officials. Public Integrity, however, said it appears that much of the redacted information "may simply be factual rather than deliberative."

The initial request was fast-tracked by the federal court, which said the documents must be provided as quickly as possible as they were intended "to inform the public on a matter of extreme national concern."

The judge said the public "needs access to relevant information" to ensure "informed public participation" in the impeachment process.

Donald Trump, redacted, Ukraine, military aid, freeze
This file photo shows a redacted court filing from special counsel Robert Mueller in case against senior Trump aide Paul Manafort on April 16, 2019. ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images/Getty